Frontenac voters will have no shortage of options from which to pick their next round of Frontenac USD 249 Board of Education members.

Frontenac voters will have no shortage of options from which to pick their next round of Frontenac USD 249 Board of Education members.
Five people applied for the three at large positions. Their survey answers, returned to The Morning Sun, are below.

Frontenac USD 249 Board of Education
Name: Lee Brunetti
Age: 45
Occupation: High School Social Studies Teacher at Pittsburg High School the past 16 years.
Family: Wife — Jennifer O'Connell Brunetti — Attorney in private practice in Frontenac. Two Children — Kinsella an 8th grader and Louis a 6th grader attending Frontenac Jr. High.
Related Experience: I have served on the board for 4 years and as President the last 2 years. I have been teaching for over 20 years.

Name: Scott Holland
Age: 44
Occupation: Postmaster-Columbus, Ks
Family: Married 24 years, with 3 Sons
Related Experience: Current Board Member of the Frontenac Education Foundation, Festa Committee Director, Member of Sacred Heart Parish (Frontenac), and Frontenac High School Booster Club. Past President and Vice President of the Sacred Heart Parish Council (Frontenac), Past Vice President of the Frontenac High School Booster Club. 19 year member of the Knights of Columbus Fraternal Organization, and a Member of the National Association of Postmasters of the United States.

Name: Adam J. Lusker Sr.
Age: 36
Occupation: Mason
Family: Wife and three children
Related Experience: Serve on the Frontenac Education Foundation, and business owner since 1994

Name: LaDonna Brunetti Pyle
Age: 51
Occupation: Teacher, USD 250
Family: Married and have two boys Boone (19 at PSU) and Dylan (14 at Frontenac schools)
Related experience: I have been an educator for 29 years, and been both a teacher and an administrator, so I understand both aspects of those positions. I have also been on the board for four years.

Name: Ryan Varsolona
Age: 28
Occupation: Appraiser
Family: Wife: Annie Varsolona, Son: Ace Varsolona
Related Experience: Coach at Frontenac High School for 6 years.  

1) What are the biggest issues facing the school board?

Brunetti — “1. Academic Achievement. 2. Potential budget cuts. 3. Hiring and retaining highly effective teachers and staff.”

Holland — “The Kansas House's proposed budget cuts in education funding. Maintaining quality education for the students of Frontenac USD 249 in spite of the proposed budget cuts. Managing long term growth in student population, and filling the position of the Superintendent of USD 249 with the best qualified applicant.”

Lusker — “We must first find a qualified superintendent and then make as smooth a transition as possible. Second, we must maintain and control enrollment.”

Pyle — “The biggest issues facing the school board are school funding and retaining and hiring good teachers. The school board is going to have to be creative and look at the entire budget for additional ways to finance our school district’s needs. We need to work closely with public and private entities to seek ways to find new sources of revenue or collaborate with those entities on facilities. Retaining and hiring good teachers starts with having a competitive salary schedule. In addition to salaries, the board needs to provide a good benefits package and a positive working environment that makes teachers want to stay in our school district.”

Varsolona — “The school system will be starting a new era with a new superintendent. The school will be faced with operating on a smaller budget, while gaining more students, and still meeting state assessment requirements while maintaining our programs to a standard of excellence.”
2) How do you propose school district’s handle the potential future cuts in state aid due to the state’s budget deficit?

Brunetti — “Districts across the State as well as USD 249 will have to make some tough choices depending on the amount of funding cut by the State. I believe we should follow a model in which the administration, staff, board members and other interested stake holders would sit down and prioritize programs that they would deem essential in maintaining. The reality is school districts may have to find new sources of revenue in order to supplement some or many programs. Depending on the severity of the cuts school districts will have to become creative and resourceful so there would be a myriad of ideas such as the very unpleasant option of students paying a fee in order to participate in extracurricular activities. Increases in the LOB and mill levy are options as well.”

Holland — “I would suggest having an action plan in place. Develop a list of priorities and scrutinize every expense. Identify and eliminate expenses that would have the smallest impact on the quality of education that our students receive. I am sure that the current Board Members have already started on some sort of action plan, and I would hope that it would include a contingency fund. This would allow the administration to adapt quickly, should these proposed cuts become a reality.”

Lusker — “If cuts become necessary, then I would propose that we do what any business would do; cut out any unnecessary spending, trim any fat, and do without the least important items first, and then reevaluate our financial situation. Fortunately, our current board and administration has done an excellent job maintaining our budget, our finances seem to be in good order. I would hope to continue that.”

Pyle — “The biggest percent of the school’s budget goes to salaries, which is an area we can’t afford to cut. I propose to look at everything we can to see where we can make cuts without jeopardizing the strength of our curriculum and activities. At this point it appears state funding will remain steady at $4,400 per pupil for the 2010 school year, thanks in part to the stimulus funding. However, we need to have contingency plans made in case that funding is reduced. These plans may include looking at some services being provided by agencies outside the school district. We may also need to look at transportation and other services we provide, and possibly make a reduction in those services, in accordance with state law.”
Varsolona — “We don’t want to jump the gun with the potential cuts, the students are what we are all here for, and a student’s education is sacred. By assuming the state won’t have money and making cuts, then at the final hour to see the state show up with money could be devastating to the district. Now, if the cuts do come we will need to take advice from our superintendent who has the expertise and knowledge.”

3) What is your view of the role of a board of education member?

Brunetti — “In my opinion the role of a board member is to set district policy creating an overall mission and vision for the district. The board serves an oversight function as it relates to the Superintendent who answers to the board. Board members best serve their district by making sure that their district attracts and retains the best administrators, teachers and support staff. Board members do not have any direct supervisory authority over any staff member or employee of the district with the exception of the Superintendent. I do not believe that it is the role of a board member to micro-manage the schools.”

Holland — “I feel that the role of a board of education member is to not only provide council and guidance to the Superintendent, but to also be a voice for the community and provide input on their behalf for every decision made that affects the students, faculty, and taxpayers of our community.”

Lusker — “To make the best decisions possible, to educate our children, and ensure their safety.”

Pyle — “The role of a board of education member is to hire the best administrators and teachers and then hold them accountable to reach high standards and develop a quality educational curriculum, by providing them with the necessary resources. A board member’s role should not be to micro-manage the daily functions of the school. I believe as a board member I represent the best interest of all students, and try to base my decisions on what is truly best for everyone. It is the board’s responsibility to develop policies that reflect the values of the community and guide the school in a positive direction based on those policies.”

Varsolona — “First, it is to make sure that you are there to represent every student in the school and make sure they have the resources to achieve their maximum potential. Second, to see that the teachers who are the heartbeat of the school are compensated on a equal level to surrounding districts so we can keep attracting the brightest and best teachers every year.”
4) Frontenac is one of the fastest growing cities in Crawford County. How should the district accommodate for the rapid growth and growing number of students?

Brunetti — “It will be interesting to see if our steady growth will continue with the economic recession. If our numbers do increase due to the growth of in-district students, then we would be faced with two options: 1) Build in order to accommodate the growth in enrollment or 2) Look at limiting the number of out of district students that are accepted each year. If the number of in-district students increases beyond our current enrollment we would have to build to accommodate that growth. Current infrastructure issues that need to be immediately addressed: 1) Increase the size of the cafeteria kitchen. We have more students to serve and our cooks need additional room to prepare and serve the food in a timely and efficient manner; and 2) Add four storm safe classrooms to the elementary; and 3) Build a community weight/fitness room. (Hopefully in cooperation with the city of Frontenac.)”

Holland — “There are a lot of factors to consider in managing community growth, so to say that there is one solution would be irresponsible. Personally I would want to look at all of our options. I would want to know what our current class sizes are and how many of those students are out of district students. What is the financial impact of accepting out of district students? Does the tax revenue generated from out of district students justify the expense? I feel that rapid community growth is a good problem to have and that it says a lot about our community, I would just like to ensure that our students do not suffer because of rapid growth.”

Lusker — “The school district has accommodated the community's growth by expanding the number of classrooms with our school addition in 2006-07. We will continue to make improvements as needed and keep our class sizes small, especially in the elementary school, where learning begins.”

Pyle — “The growth rate of Frontenac is a problem that most school districts would love to have. The growth rate is a true reflection of the positive direction of our school district and city. The school district and the city’s collaboration are the main reason that both are experiencing positive growth. Frontenac Schools take pride in having low student-teacher ratios. In order to maintain these low ratios, we will need to closely monitor the number of out-of-district students that are allowed to attend Frontenac. Currently Frontenac has 25% out-of-district students. As Frontenac grows and we have more in district students, we will have to reduce the number of out-of-district students to accommodate our growth and keep our student-teacher ratio steady.”
Varsolona — “We have reached a lot of those goals recently with the new school being completed. I think we need to maintain what we have now, but always be planning for the future. If new industries and businesses come to town that will cause an influx in students, obviously we will have to address that but with the economy the way it is today, I feel that we should take baby steps not giant steps on any new projects because the taxpayer is already taxed enough.”

5) Why should you be elected to the board of education?

Brunetti — “I have enjoyed my four year tenure on the Board of Education and I believe we have made substantial strides such as improved traffic flow and traffic safety, curriculum development, substantial increase in students reading at grade level, excellent assessment and test scores, growth in enrollment, completion of the high school addition and infrastructure improvements, energy performance contract, landscaping, improving the district web site and school communication, added new instructional technology, implemented all day kindergarten, constructed new playground in cooperation with the PTO, added enrichment and remediation programs, ACT prep, character education program, and many other programs that have helped strengthen and improve our district. I want to see Frontenac continue to be a progressive district and would appreciate your vote and support in the upcoming election.”

Holland — “I consider myself to be a Pro-active Professional with an objective opinion. I would offer a conservative view when it comes to spending. Frontenac USD 249 currently has one of the lowest mill levies in the area, and I would work to ensure that it stays that way. I would listen to the community and offer their input into decisions made by the board of education.”

Lusker — “I am a lifelong resident of Frontenac. I graduated from FHS in 1991. My three brothers were also Raiders. I have traditional Frontenac values instilled in me by my mother and father, who also graduated from Frontenac High School. My dad served on the board until his death in 1982. He taught me service to one's community is invaluable. I also have three children under the age of ten. God willing, I will be directly involved in Frontenac's schools for the next 18 years. That is why I am running for USD 249 school board.”

Pyle — “I feel I should be elected to the board of education because of my experience in education. Schools today are bombarded with assessments, curriculum alignment, and increasing numbers of at-risk and special needs students. I believe being an educator for 29 years allows me to understand all facets of the educational system, and provide valuable input and suggestions pertaining to these important issues. As a resident with lots of history connected to the Frontenac School, I want to see our school district continue to progress, and constantly improve the education of our students. I have had experience in both larger and smaller districts, which leads me to believe that schools the size of Frontenac provide the best balance of educational diversity while maintaining an atmosphere where all students feel a personal connection to their school.”

Varsolona — “I want to make sure every student can enjoy every experience that Frontenac has to offer, all the traditions and special things that come with going to Frontenac. I want to build on that tradition because Frontenac is a special place and there are so many amazing people in this community. I was in the first graduating class that received a scholarship from the Frontenac Scholarship Foundation, I feel like this is a way to give back to all the people that have helped our students out so much.”

Read tomorrow’s edition of The Morning Sun for answers from candidates for the Pittsburg USD 250 Board of Education.